I didn’t know Bill Rauhauser personally; I never took any of his classes, and never really got to hear him speak at length on his life and work. But I did meet him a few times; once at The Book Beat in Oak Park, a place where I’ve spent countless hours browsing and reading since I was 13 years old. On that first occasion almost 6 years ago, Mr. Rauhauser was already in his 90’s, and yet he was carrying a DSLR around his neck, out in the parking lot shooting street photography. I had already purchased and read a signed copy of his book, Bill Rauhauser: 20th Century Photography in Detroit. But, like a nervous dude at a pickup bar, I needed an entry line to start a conversation. So, as Mr. Rauhauser settled back into a chair inside the bookstore, I approached and asked if he could sign my book. Of course, the minute he opened it, he could see that he’d already signed it, but he played along. I let him know that I appreciated him for the legacy of great photography that he’s nurtured here in Detroit, and told him how much his images resonated with me as a Detroit native. It was a brief conversation, but I found him to be a gracious and dignified intellectual. Though I saw him on a few more occasions, I wish I had more time to get to know him. However, taking yet another pass through Mr. Rauhauser’s wonderful book this week, in a way I do have more time – his images still speak, still reveal that grace, dignity and intellect. As I wander around Detroit in 2017 with my camera, observing and recording some of the same spaces that he did well over 50 years ago, I am proud to have been influenced by his work – in no small way – over these last few years. If you haven’t had the opportunity, get to know his life and work. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s just a few of my favorites of his work: